Trauma Informed Living

I know teachers. Teacher friends, teacher daughters. I had a bunch of teachers in school. Some of those teachers from elementary school through my Some College days seemed to See me differently–like they knew how afraid I was all the time, how I felt wary and watchful, why I cried when I Wasn’t Good Enough, why missing one word in a year of 4th grade spelling tests was cause for High Anxiety. I didn’t know those were things for them to consider in their treatment of me in the classroom because those were my Normal.

I don’t know much about the ins and outs of Trauma Informed Education, but I’m hearing ripples of conversation about it throughout the teachers I currently know. When an educator can look at a child’s behavior as more than Good or Bad and instead view that student as a child who may Come From Crazy (me!) the dynamics change. And like with those teachers who could See me, the classroom becomes a Safe Place, a place where the student feels free to make a mistake, to be less than perfect and still be accepted and receive kindness.

It was hard to notice when my reaction was not your average reaction while in the grips–the very physical grips–of a trauma response. I remember in my high school creative writing class when the job of editing the class’s compilation was offered to me. My whole body began a hard trembling, my head became a confused, swirling buzz, and I fought tears. All I could do was to shake my head and say “no”. The teacher and the students smiled and urged me to accept, and I can only guess that I was well thought of, but every ounce of my will was at capacity just keeping me from bolting from the room. My face was hot and I was losing the fight to not cry. They moved on to pick another girl, a funny, artistic and more composed girl. She did a great job, I remained Invisible–and disappointed.

This wasn’t the first and it wasn’t the last time my body’s response called the shots. I’ve stood in stores, at church, and in my front room, unable to move, waiting for the panicked breathing and full-body trembling to subside. Slowly as I learn to name the Lies and replace them with Truth, I have less Triggery Badness engulf me. And I’m working toward quicker recognition of the signals so I can breathe and tell myself to save the STOP, DROP, and ROLL! for when I’m literally on fire.

I don’t know that I have some huge take-away from this post. I do wish I could thank the Mr. McMahons and Mrs. Swansons who treated me with perhaps a bit more gentleness than other teachers without making me feel like the weird bundle of nerves I was. And I’m thankful for the acknowledgment by the education system that when a child is acting out or withdrawing, they may be dealing with some bad mojo at home, and not just label them Bad or Dumb or Over-Sensitive. Those are horrible Lies for a child to carry in their bones.

The bring your own beverage conversation: Have you had experiences with labels being applied to you, and if so, how did those labels cause you to see yourself?

What tools have you found useful when dealing with a trauma response? I love using belly breathing to calm myself in the moment, and therapy with an awesome Mental Health Professional for the long haul, the deeper understanding, the overall changes.

Laughter is healing! I highly recommend the movie High Anxiety with Mel Brooks.

 

When elastic surrenders

Maybe it was simply worn out. It was a fairly old skirt after all. But did it need to give out in public?

I suppose that elastic could have a retirement date, or one of those “best before” dates like food. All I know is that I was happily wandering through a shoe store in Portland with my daughter and son-in-law when I reached back to pull my shirt down, and touched….pants!  Of the under kind. WHAT?

I edged slowly, casually–well, as casually as one can while clutching the waist of their skirt–toward my daughter. “Um,” I said quietly, “my skirt elastic died.” I explained The Discovery.

She laughed. “I didn’t even notice!” And if the salespeople did notice, well, I don’t ever have to see them again. Ever.

This time I was able to laugh about it, even though my first thought was If you weren’t so overweight that wouldn’t have happened. Second thought: Everyone will make fun of you. Followed by a little You should have known–then you could have avoided this.

What if I met myself in these circumstances with a little compassion, and maybe just a pinch of logic?

Truth: Yes, I felt Imperfect. I felt Embarrassed. Those feelings washed over me, and went away when I giggled with my daughter. I realized that my whole importance to the sales clerks was whether or not I bought shoes. My Incident would be no more than an amusing anecdote to them if they even noticed. People don’t spend nearly the time focused on me as I think (which is a good thing in this instance). And not being psychic, as much as I would like to be at times, I couldn’t have known when the elastic would expire.

Today I will do this for me: When I feel that quickened breathing of anxiety as something unexpected happens (and it will), I will feel what I feel, then tell myself some version of Stuff happens (because it does). And I’ll give myself a little virtual hug and have some compassion for myself, since I deserve it just as much as the next guy.

And I’ll put some safety pins in my purse.

The BringYourOwnBeverage Conversation: Clearly for me, my weight is what I see as one of my biggest Flaws. What do you see as your biggest Unacceptable Flaw? What area in your life do you need to work on accepting? Where do you need to show yourself compassion?